August 10, 2020 by Alan Iturriaga
I have, like millions of others, been expectantly waiting for the presidential election of the United States. As the date approaches, the American government faces the challenge of maintaining its democratic processes while fighting off a deadly pandemic. One of the proposed strategies to circumvent mass agglomerations of voters is vote by mail, otherwise known as absentee voting. However, the Trump administration has feverishly attacked the idea. Subsequently, a heated debate has taken force in which voting by mail has been disputed as either a promising and alternate voting method, or as a possible liability to the integrity of the 2020 presidential elections.
Although we could make the case that extraordinary situations require extraordinary accommodations so that the engine of democracy continues to run smoothly, voting by mail in the United States is not new, or extraordinary. Despite the fact that, according to the U.S census bureau, nearly one fourth of voters in the 2018 midterm elections voted by mail and that there is no evidence that voting by mail is particularly fraudulent, President Trump has said that “mail-in voting is horrible, [and] it’s corrupt.” The president’s remarks are particularly strange considering that him, the First Lady, and his daughter, Ivanka, have all voted by mail in the past. The reason why the current administration opposes mail by vote evades both me and the American public, but I am not above speculation.
One compelling reason to think why the President may try to shut down the expansion of voting by mail (with the exception of Florida, a swing state where he endorsed it) is that it enables more people to exercise their political will upon the presidential institution. The President has not been able to secure his reelection according to forecasts, nor has the administration been able to raise his approval ratings in a sufficient way that foreshadows a favourable outcome. The President’s outcry becomes more discombobulating still, and more telling, when one considers that he proposed delaying the election process – an idea which has been condemned by both the GOP and the Democrats. The matter, either way, is out of Mr. Trump’s hands. The Constitution clearly states that the ability to choose the day in which the electoral college votes is up to Congress. As for the adoption of the voting by mail method, as of April of this year, thirty states have no limitations on absentee voting and five states have voting by mail as their default. Whether the remaining states are able and willing to accomodate voting by mail or not, it is crucial and of utmost moral importance that the electorate should not be fed misinformation about their voting choices.
There is only one, but very dangerous, downside of the adoption of voting by mail. It is almost certain that if Mr. Trump loses the presidency, he will seek to undermine the legitimacy of the election. We know this will be the case as Mr. Trump has suggested so verbatim. In an interview with Fox News Sunday, the President stated the following: “I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election. I really do.” When asked whether he would challenge the results of the election, he simply answered, “I have to see.” If it is the case that voting by mail is adopted more widely, the Democratic Party may have to brace itself against the accusations of a raging despot and his claims to the oval office. Though I hope – and highly suspect – that the GOP is neither willing nor has the strength to get down and dirty into another fistfight over the legitimacy of an election.
In such a crucial and cruel moment in American history, it is shameful that the President spends even the slightest breath in disseminating misinformation to the electorate. If his remarks are made out of ignorance, then the president exposes himself as utterly incompetent or at the mercy of an incompetent staff. If his remarks are made with the knowledge that they are inaccurate, then he concedes to being incredibly callous and morally deplorable. As it stands right now, voting by mail seems to be a safe, though perhaps difficult to implement, voting alternative that the Trump administration should consider as a serious and legitimate tool to make the process of voting safer.
Alan Iturriaga ('20) is a Senior Editor at SPR.